DURHAM, N.C. – The 16th-ranked Duke Blue Devils contained the Miami Hurricanes and posted a 68-53 win in front of 4,564 in attendance at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Sunday.
Elizabeth Williams totaled a game-high 24 points and 11 rebounds while Azura Stevens dropped a career-high 20 points, a result of hitting 9-of-13 from the field.
The Blue Devils’ twin towers took care of the offense while on defense each stood like pillars as part of a structured 3-2 zone that floated out to a 1-2-2 set that held Miami (14-4, 4-1) to 26-percent shooting, its lowest of the season.
Duke (13-5, 4-1) finished the game converting 55 percent from the field.
“I’m just really proud of the team in terms of how we played together and how we did the things that we wanted to do,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
“Some excellent team defense. Obviously Elizabeth was very productive in offensive rebounding and scoring, but she was absolutely critical defensively in the way she played our defense and the way she contested shots and really took care of the paint. Azura the same thing. I’m loving her getting mismatches inside, playing great defense and rebounding, as well. It was a good game for us. We played as a team, we played together, we played smart, and I really like when we play smart. We’re a very, very good team when we play smart.”
Necole Sterling led the Miami offense with 17 points and tried to make up for the team’s leading scorer, Adrienne Motley, being held to eight points – well below her 17.5 points per game average on the season.
The Hurricanes launched 37 three-point attempts to counter Duke’s length around the perimeter, but only connected on eight of them.
“We took too many three’s, and that’s a credit to Duke,” Miami head coach and fomer Duke All-America Katie Meier said
“I think they invited us into a trap which we walked right into with both feet.”
As Miami struggled offensively, Duke committed numerous turnovers that kept the score close throughout the first half and leading 30-25 at halftime.
The Blue Devils’ domination on the boards by a 47-33 margin for the game was led by a career-high effort from Amber Henson who finished with 10 rebounds to go along with a career-high three shot blocks.
Duke guard Rebecca Greenwell had a tough shooting day, scoring on just 2-of-9 attempts while facing double and triple coverage often.
It was only the third time this season that she didn’t finish with a double-digit scoring total.
Her first basket didn’t come until the fourth minute of play in the second half – a three that eventually extended Duke’s lead to 40-27.
However, even with Greenwell struggling offensively, the Blue Devils’ maintained their poise to dictate the tempo of the game.
While Miami’s scout to shut the Duke guard down worked, it couldn’t deny Williams, Stevens, and the rest of the Duke squad from finishing the job.
“I think everyone kind of knew going in that we had the size advantage, and in the middle of the game we could feel the momentum shifting, so we just kept trying to pound it inside,” Williams said.
Duke outscored the Hurricanes 52-6 in the paint, and while McCallie recognized that Greenwell wasn’t scoring, her presence on the court balanced out the team’s play.
She put her back in the game, even with three personal fouls and 13 minutes to play.
Greenwell found her stroke once more on a running jumper inside the right elbow and the Blue Devils led 48-34 with 11:29 to play.
“She’s such a competitor – Becca is always a threat,” McCallie said.
“You can never leave her. You always have to find her, so she was occupying a lot of their interest. It turned out to be a paint game. There was no need to go anywhere else but the paint, so we did, and I thought Becca did a great job playing her role of defending, being aggressive and of course getting loose and hitting that three.”
With 9:25 to play, Jessica Thomas (8 points, 3 assists) hit a successive jumper for Miami that reduced the Duke lead to 12, trailing 50-38, and seemed to initiate a spark from the visiting bench.
However, a subsquent ambitious dribble-drive attempt by Thomas to go through Duke’s Ka’lia Johnson (9 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) slowed that momentum.
While Sterling added a three after a Stevens layup and the Hurricanes’ shooting improved slightly, Duke kept its foot on the pedal and never let the lead dip below 10 points for the rest of the game.
Following a Henson make-and-miss from the free throw line, Stevens stole the ball and touched it off the glass to extend the lead up to 15 points.
Johnson’s lone three of the game pushed the Duke lead to 17 points, 68-51, the largest of the game, with two minutes to play.
The Blue Devils had executed their game plan and adjusted accordingly to what Miami presented.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was good, and that’s what McCallie expected at this point of the season.
“That’s the way a team game is,” McCallie said.
“Eventually, we’ll get inside and outside where everything flows, but that doesn’t happen yet. It’s only January. That’s what you’re doing in March and April. That’s where everything is clicking on all cylinders.”
Notes: Duke played without forward Oderah Chidom who missed her first game since dislocating her shoulder in Duke’s 65-40 win over Virginia Tech on Thursday…The Blue Devils shot 56.5 percent during the first half – the fourth consecutive game in which they converted at 50 percent or better during the opening 20 minutes…Duke went 2-for-8 beyond the arc and failed to hit a three-pointer in the first half for the first time this season.